September 28th, 2013
(as of 2013-09-11 20:00:19 PST)
FIFA 14 [Online Game Code] by Electronic Arts
Experience the emotion of scoring great goals in FIFA 14. The game plays the way great soccer matches are contested, with innovations to the award-winning gameplay that inspire fans to build play through midfield, dictating the tempo of a match. Feel the tension as chances are created, and experience the thrill of hitting the back of the net. A new feature called Pure Shot and a brand-new ball physics system will transform shooting, making every shot attempt feel real, and when players connect with the perfect strike, feel exhilarating. FIFA 14 delivers engaging online features and live services that connect fans to the heartbeat of the sport—and to each other—through EA SPORTS Football Club. FIFA 14 is soccer’s social network, where fans connect, compete and share with millions of others around the world.
Additional features will be revealed in the months leading to the game’s retail launch in Fall 2013.
Requires Origin Client to activate.
Black Friday no longer means sales the day after Thanksgiving in the US. Instead, it's expanded into a week-long series of sales and discounts. But the best holiday deals tend to be focused on the upcoming weekend. Online retailers especially have made the in-store only deals almost obsolete, but we've lined up what we feel are some of the best deals to meet your gaming needs.
If you're looking to bulk up your last-gen library you'll be able to find much better deals than if you want the latest games, but there's a discount on pretty much everything this holiday. (Note that GameSpot does receive some commission on Amazon affiliate links, however those links are not included in this story. GameSpot does not receive a commission for any other retailer.)
Wii U: While the $300 32GB bundled with Super Mario 3D World isn't bad, report indicate that you'll be able to buy the unit tax free on Friday for just under $270.
However, if you're willing to spend a little more in exchange for a free game, this Best Buy bundle includes the regular pack-ins (Super Mario 3D World and Nintendo Land) as well as Super Smash Bros. and Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze for $360 -- about $50 in savings.
Xbox One: Microsoft already discounted their system to $350 for the holidays, but you can knock off a few more dollars with the following deals:
The Microsoft Store is selling the Xbox One for $330, plus a free game (note that these deals go in and out of stock quickly on their online store, so you may have to check back later if it's not currently available).
Target is selling the Assassin's Creed Unity bundle for $330 plus you get a $50 gift card.
And don't forget that the Microsoft store is also giving $100 credit for your used PS3/Xbox 360. This may or may not work with the specific holiday bundles, but you should still be able to get a $250 Xbox One bundle, at the least.
PlayStation 4: We haven't found any crazy deep discounts, but most retailers have a $400 bundle available that includes the essential titles Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us Remastered.
Now through Monday December 1, Sony is throwing an online sale of co-op games on the PlayStation store. As always, the discounts are bigger if you're a PS Plus subscriber, and if you spend over $100, you'll earn $15 back.
The Microsoft store has a lot of games on sale you can check out here with most deals kicking off today, on Thursday 11/27.
Blizzard is having a sale on all of their games on the Battle.net store. These deals are available now through December 2 at midnight PST.
Origin is offering over 200 PC games for sale through their own portal, but the best deals are on EA developed/published games like Titanfall, Mass Effect, and Dead Space. Now through December 1 at midnight PST
The regular brick-and-mortar retailers run the gamut on hardware, peripheral, and game discounts as well, and some of the discounts are available through their online stores as well
As always, Amazon has an ongoing series of Lightning Deals on gaming and technology. You'll have to keep an eye on the site itself to see what's upcoming and whether it's a big enough discount to make it worth buying.
Looking for retail deals that go beyond just the US? We've rounded up the best UK Black Friday deals right here.
It's not specifically gaming related, but it's worth pointing out that Amazon is offering a 30% discount on their printed books when you use the code HOLIDAY30 -- only good with one book per account. But you could get the Super Smash Bros. collector's guide on the cheap.
One of my favorite stores for videogame related t-shirts, apparel, and collectibles, Fangamer.com, is currently offering free shipping for the US and 50% for international shipping. They're running a Bundle Up sale this weekend, and they've just started offering a new Legend of Zelda fan-made art book that I'm 100% buying for myself.
Any particularly great deals you've found? Let us know in the comments, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Well well well! Fancy meeting you here!
This is the page where you'll find all the best Black Friday UK game deals and discounts for all manner of platforms from PC to Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This page will continually update and incorporate all the best deals found between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Happy bargain hunting.
Live in the US? You should direct your eyes to GameSpot's Black Friday Game Deals page for North America. You're welcome!
Note: All times and dates, on this page only, are default UK.
First up: UK retailer GAME will be selling a limited number of Xbox One consoles with four games for £299.99 at selected stores on Black Friday.
It's also selling:
Elsewhere on the site Amazon has:
Amazon is also running a spate of hourly flash sales, with limited stock that depletes fast. These are often crazy deals.
Here's the schedule so far. Find your chosen game and be sure to go HERE when the time is right.
That's all they've listed so far. Will update when new deals arrive or just look for yourself HERE
240GB Solid-state Hard Drive, £65
Steam has more than 1,800 games discounted for PC owners, so er, you should probably check it out. Here are the deals that Valve is promoting hardest:
You can find lots more Green Man Gaming deals here
If you've already discovered Far Cry 4's wonderful secret ending, you'll probably be invested enough in the game to already know that, somewhere, out there, a second secret ending exists.
The game's creative director, Alex Hutchinson, confirmed two weeks ago that GameSpot had discovered the game's first secret ending, found just moments into the game, which allows players to reach the credits within about fifteen minutes.
But he also disclosed on his Twitter feed that the game contains what he describes is a "super secret" alternate ending that "creates a whole new mini-location".
Don't look if you want to enjoy it for yourself but Gamespot just outed the secret alternate ending if you listen to Pagan at the start...— Alex Hutchinson (@BangBangClick) November 14, 2014
But they didn't find the super secret alternate ending that requires you to make a snap decision and creates a whole new mini-location...— Alex Hutchinson (@BangBangClick) November 14, 2014
First of all; more games should do this.
Secondly, it looks like that second alternative ending has now been discovered, and it exists at the very end of the game. Major spoiler: After confronting Pagan, following the assault on his fortress, you're given the option to shoot him or not. Should you decline, Pagan will sit with you and reveal more interesting details about his back-story and character. He'll then fly off in a chopper.
Major spoiler: However, you can at this point launch a rocket at the helicopter, which, if struck, will crash nearby. That crash site, it is suspected, is the new mini-location that Hutchinson was referring to. Here, you can loot Pagan's body to find, among other things, his prized gold pen.
However, it's not absolutely certain that this is the secret alternative ending that Hutchinson was referring to. The developer has not explicitly stated on his Twitter feed that this is what he previously was referring to, and some gamers are continuing their search.
Check out the second secret ending in the video below, as discovered by the YouTuber xGarbett.
Hardcore Dragon Age fans have gradually come to notice that the latest instalment in the series is not as talkative as expected.
Though the previous game in the series was packed with dialogue between the player and their trio of AI-controlled companions, in Dragon Age: Inquisition the talking is more tentative.
Due to discussions about the absence of chatter on various Dragon Age and EA forums, developer BioWare has discovered that this is likely due to an unknown glitch in the code. If the bug is found and remedied, companions will be far more conversational.
Now Allan Schumacher, a QA analyst at BioWare, is asking fans who have played the game for more than sixty hours to explain to him their experience and share their save files. The more people do this, the more likely it is that Schumacher can locate the source of the problem.
The community thread for messaging Schumacher is found on the BioWare website, though discussions have also spilled out to the EA Help Forum and Reddit.
Dragon Age: Inquisition shipped on November 18 for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC. GameSpot's review was glowing, with critic Kevin VanOrd writing: "Dragon Age: Inquisition is a wonderful game and a lengthy pilgrimage to a magical world with vital thematic ties to one we already know".
The EA-published game has also garnered favourable reviews among most critics.
If you're a GameSpot regular you've probably already seen our new comprehensive buyer's guides for Xbox One and PS4 (promise I'll stop plugging these!) but there is certainly one detail I missed in both.
To wit: Can the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One survive a fifteen-foot drop onto concrete?
Now, this absolutely isn't the kind of test you should try at home. As WWE wrestler Mick Foley once famously demonstrated ("good god almighty!"), fifteen feet is a long, long way down.
Tech publication Wired dropped both Sony and Microsoft's new consoles from waist height, and then from fifteen feet, to see if they can function after the impact.
Minor spoiler - only one survives. Watch the video above.
Publisher Ubisoft has released a second patch for the Xbox One and Xbox 360 editions of its open-world FPS, Far Cry 4.
The latest update comes days after a similar patch was issued for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 versions, and a little over a week since Far Cry 4 shipped across Europe and the US.
Far Cry 4, which was developed for cross-gen platforms and PC, garnered generally favourable reviews from critics. GameSpot's assessment, however, outlined reservations for the game.
GameSpot critic Kevin VanOrd wrote: "It's when you circumvent Far Cry 4's major thematic flaws, inconsistent missions, and incessant nagging that you find the game you came looking for, breathing easy and enjoying the mountains that rise in the distance and the valleys that stretch beneath you."
The Xbox One and Xbox 360 patch notes, written by Ubisoft, can be found below.
Ubisoft added: "We are still working at improving your gaming experience and will keep you updated of upcoming patches in the near future."
Developer 343 Industries has released a new, 523MB patch for Halo: The Master Chief Collection in a bid to squish the game's multiplayer bugs.
The studio told fans that the latest patch resolves "a number of matchmaking issues, fixes various bugs related to UI and the party system, and also improves overall stability". However, it explained that more work still needs to be done to eliminate all the matchmaking and multiplayer problems.
"While this update contains a variety of improvements, we continue to work on additional content updates that will be rolled out to address further issues that you have called out," the studio wrote on its blog.
Since its launch two weeks ago, on November 11, The Master Chief Collection has been unable to connect players online smoothly or swiftly. Various patches, applied in a bid to improve the experience, have not resolved the issues, and in some instances have made matters worse.
Due to the emergence of numerous bugs and problems, Bonnie Ross, the executive in charge at 343 Industries, asked fans to accept her "heartfelt apologies" over the game's persistent online problems.
"We have not delivered the experience you deserve," Ross said.
"I personally apologize for this on behalf of us all at 343 Industries. Our team is committed to working around the clock until these issues are resolved."
Patch notes, written by 343 Industries, can be found below.
Party, Lobby, and Custom Games
We have more information on Achievements and the LASO playlists here. As mentioned earlier this week, we have additional updates on the way in an effort to further improve your experience with Halo: The Master Chief Collection. We thank you for your continued feedback, patience, and support.
Metal Gear architect Hideo Kojima will reveal the next edition of Metal Gear Online at a games event in December.
Little is known of the multiplayer-focused game, nor whether it will be sold standalone or come packaged with Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, but Kojima is expected to reveal early details of the project at The Video Game Awards 2014.
Geoff Keighley, a games broadcaster who produces the new game awards show, revealed on Twitter that Kojima will provide a "world premier" of the new game. It's not clear whether this will come in the form of a gameplay demo or a trailer, though games award shows tend to opt for the latter.
Next Friday night I'm honored @HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN will join us at @thegameawards to world premiere Metal Gear Online. pic.twitter.com/rT6sLDfdxb— Geoff Keighley (@geoffkeighley) November 27, 2014
The first iteration of Metal Gear Online was released in 2008, bundled with the PlayStation 3 exclusive Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. More than one million players registered for the game, though by 2012, publisher Konami decided to shut down its servers.
Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain is expected to ship in 2015. The game's prologue, Ground Zeroes, shipped on cross-gen consoles this year and divided critics.
The Video Game Awards 2014 will take place on Friday, December 5 in Las Vegas--which is the night before Sony's PlayStation Experience community event. It will be streamed on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and PC.
(Video above: Metal Gear Online, 2008)
Sony is aiming to increase sales in its videogame division by 25 percent over the next three years, with plans bring it to "as much as 1.6 trillion yen ($13.6 billion.)" According to Reuters (via gamesindustry), Sony executives discussed the need to increase margins as opposed to market share at its investors' conference recently.
The company intends to cut back on its TV and mobile phone products in order to save costs, instead looking to its PlayStation 4 and image sensor products to generate a surge in revenue over the next three years. Sony said that this would be helped by users purchasing personalized TV, video and music distribution services.
Recently-appointed chief of Sony's mobile division Hiroki Totoki said, "We're not aiming for size or market share but better profits."
The PlayStation 4 was released over a year ago and has shipped more than 13.5 million systems worldwide since launch. In the US, PS4 hardware sales have generated more revenue for Sony than any other new platform. The company suffered a reported loss of $806 million last quarter, which was better than investors feared.
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email email@example.com
Geometry Wars 3 is about that endless quest to best friends and strangers. As you work your way through the single-player progression or toy around with the returning modes from Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 and its predecessor, your focus may be on the onscreen fireworks display, but it's the promise of rising up the leaderboards that compels you. You use the left stick on your controller to move your minimalist vessel across the playing grid; you use the right to shoot a constant stream of projectiles in whatever direction you push. Green diamonds, yellow arrows, purple pinwheels, and all sorts of other geometric structures swarm you from every side, each shape following a particular pattern through space. Your brain and your thumbs are fully engaged with the process of mowing them down to the point that mind and muscle become one. You react to events before you understand them, yet there is a miniscule segment of your gray matter always devoted to the score you hope to reach.
Score-chasing is rarely so elegant. Numerical goals are always visible on screen, and should a level end before you meet your challenge, it's quick and easy to restart the stage and try again. Yet while the promise of gloating over your friends is primary to Geometry Wars 3's appeal, that appeal would be diminished were the action itself not so refined. This dual-stick shooter controls like a dream, responding to your nudges and wiggles with exceptional grace. All the while, the soundtrack recalls Jan Hammer and Daft Punk, forcing you ever onward while giving even the early seconds of each level a sense of nervous urgency.
You could have described the awesome Geometry Wars 2 with similar praise, and that game's best modes are represented once again, all under the guise of "Classic Mode." Evolved is a time-honored tradition among shooter-lovers and loses little of its chaotic seductiveness. It's Pacifism that remains the most interesting of the returning styles, however, in that it removes shooting from the Euclidean equation entirely and has you traveling through neon gates that explode when you travel through them, and in the process, take down the alarming number of the pulsing cyan prisms pursuing you. The mode may be called Pacifism, but you aren't likely to feel very peaceful while you play. Success here means taking dangerous chances, allowing dozens of shapes to encircle you in the hopes of annihilating great numbers of them at once. Or, perhaps, zooming through the cloud of blue detritus that those shapes leave behind when destroyed, and cursing the busy visuals that obscure the perils that lurk behind the proliferating particles.Good luck on the global leaderboards! Get it? Get it?
Adventure Mode is at the forefront, however, and it is the mode that most deviates from the Geometry Wars formula. For one, it provides structural progression, granting you currency that you then spend on drones (and drone upgrades). Drones accompany you as you flit about the arena, perhaps adding to your firepower, perhaps sniping foes from a distance, perhaps collecting the green geoms that vanquished shapes leave behind. Then there are supers, special abilities that join your arena-clearing bomb, and have you dropping mines, spewing out homing missiles, or placing a highly powerful automatic turret. Adventure Mode's other deviation is in the levels themselves, which are no longer just flat arenas, but wrap into three-dimensional constructs. Some arenas take the form of globes; others are shaped like peanuts or cylinders. Sometimes, additional idiosyncrasies are mixed in, such as walls that gradually close in on you, or bosses that belch aggressive geometry and chase you around the playing field.
Both diversions change Geometry Wars in fundamental ways. Where the unlock system is concerned, not all players are on level ground when playing a stage. You won't have the same abilities the first time you play a stage as you might when you return to it to shoot for a higher score. This adjustment inspires you to return once you've earned powerful drones--but it also strikes at the heart of the series. One of Geometry Wars 2's greatest assets was its purity: it was by skill, and skill alone, that you triumphed. There's less joy in rising to the top of the leaderboards when most of the players lurking under you conquered the level with lesser equipment. I glowed when I saw my name at the top of Adventure Mode's very first stage, but I didn't really earn my place at the head of the table. Classic Mode grants you a more accurate picture of your abilities, and though those leaderboards might crush your soul, it's a great pleasure to claw your way to the top--a pleasure Adventure Mode doesn't duplicate in spite of its own natural addictiveness.
The soundtrack recalls Jan Hammer and Daft Punk, forcing you ever onward while giving even the early seconds of each level a sense of nervous urgency.
The wraparound levels are home to some creative challenges. In many cases, the arrangement and order of the shapes that spawn into the arena are fixed, thus establishing specific gameplay rhythms. A stage might have you continuously zipping around a volumetric curve, carefully navigating a cube that flips around as you approach its edges, or avoiding oscillating platforms that destroy you with a single touch. Discovering how to exploit these rhythms is one of Geometry Wars 3's great challenges, for it's in that rhythm that is hidden that elusive high score. This is an uncommon brand of trial and error in the series, Waves mode notwithstanding, for you are rewarded just as much for your ability to recognize and memorize patterns as you are for your quick reactions to the game's variables.
Geometry Wars 3 is absorbing regardless, though I can't in good faith claim that its additions make this sequel surpass its predecessor. Concerns of equal footing among players aside, some quirks also poke at the elements that made Geometry Wars 2 a case study in arcade austerity. In King Mode, for example, the circles that signal a safe space have been stretched into three-dimensional domes, complete with unnecessary rotating details, whose boundaries aren't as clear as they should be. Elsewhere, the returning red-and-blue diamonds that prove so often deadly in late-game fireworks no longer announce their presence via sound effects, leading to deaths that don't feel particularly fair, in part because the entirety of the stage doesn't appear on screen, and thus the shape's sudden appearance leaves no time to react. In the past, the series' visual clutter came from the vibrant particles that painted the screen. Now, it's the 3D visualizations, tilting surfaces, and warping effects that prove distracting, and often more so.Power-ups come in the form of power states, which temporarily increase your firepower, draw geoms to you automatically, or aid you in some other way.
You can crank up the distractions (and the tension) in four-player cooperative play, which leads you through a mini-adventure of its own, as well as a bit of squabbling as you face the fun (and challenging) mode-ending boss. (Sadly, there is no cooperative Classic Mode.) Your dreams of online cooperation still go unrealized, but you can still take the enjoyment online in the form of two different competitive modes, which pit two teams of up to four players against each other in a high-score showdown. These modes are sadly underpopulated to the extent that you might not find a match, which is a shame, considering how unusual and energetic they are. In Stock Mode, for instance, you must gather ammo drops to beat a crystalline boss, which means you and your opponents remain in constant motion, battling not only to survive and collect, but also to reduce each others' collective ammo pools. There is consolation here, however: online battles are a blast even when you're competing in lonely teams of one player each.
But it's the leaderboard competition that remains at the heart of the series, in spite of Geometry Wars 3's tweaking and twisting of the blueprint. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 remains an almost-perfect example of its genre; Geometry Wars 3, in its reliance on unlockables, feels less confident in its foundation, adding embellishment where none was needed. My thumb, however, stands testament to the game's greatness, throbbing in pain as I enter the seventh consecutive hour of geometric action. Tomorrow, I will look at my swollen digit and promise myself to lay off the Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions. But such are the game's absorbing attributes that I will break that promise before the day passes.
The crowdfunding campaign for Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts' upcoming PC space sim, Star Citizen, has now surpassed $63 million. This is up from $61 million notched just two weeks ago.
To date, more than 661,000 people have backed Star Citizen. The game is the most crowdfunded project of any kind in history. Roberts is hopeful the title can reach $100 million during its lifetime.
Star Citizen's original Kickstarter campaign ended nearly two years ago, with further funding later shifting to the game's official website, where the bulk of contributions have been made.
Developer Cloud Imperium Games says Star Citizen is hoping to be the first AAA game developed with money from fans instead of a big-name publisher. It seems well on its way to achieving that goal.
For more on Star Citizen and Roberts himself, check out part one and part two of GameSpot's interview with the legendary designer.
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Borderlands games are about shooting and looting. You do both of these in Tales, because nestled within its narrative-based nature you confront several lengthy action sequences. The first episode alone features brutal skirmishes resulting in more than a few exploded heads. While there is no shooting in the traditional Borderlands sense--you won't run around gunning down Psychos or skags--there are opportunities to operate heavy machinery and fire off a round. These scenarios require fingers always on thumbsticks, chaining together the familiar moving and ducking commands from Telltale's previous episodic games. So when you're not moving analogue sticks to dodge-roll away from cleaver-wielding bandits, you're mashing buttons to break a guard's neck or bash Psychos in the face. You're running away, jumping onto moving vehicles, grasping for weapons, and slamming them into an attacker's face, and dodging bullets. You aren't given the luxury of mulling decisions for long. Motion is constant, because nothing on Pandora waits for anyone. It's incredibly satisfying to wrap up a 20-minute vehicle chase with a few explosions and an axe kill or two to a face before moving on. And unlike in Telltale's other games, when dealing with others, silence is rarely a good option.Good ol' Loader Bot.
As in other Telltale games, players have a limited amount of time to select one of four dialogue or action options when dealing with other characters. The way the studio has tweaked its choice system for Tales from the Borderlands adds another layer of depth to an already complex feature. Both Rhys and Fiona are telling their side of a tale and, as a result, provide different (and sometimes conflicting) details about what happened. You get the opportunity to control both of them, offering your own take on the character.
Rhys is a Hyperion employee, and everyone on Pandora hates the company. He's viewed as another cog in a machine that destroys lives. Other characters have a real beef with Hyperion as well, and these prejudices dictate how they interact with Rhys. As Rhys, you have to choose whether to flaunt that powerful connection or appeal to others by being vulnerable, telling them how the company has screwed you over too. Fiona appears to have little vulnerability other than love for family, but it's up to you how successful she is as a con artist. You can dissemble to save your skin, but Tales does an amazing job of forcing you to think hard about who to throw under the bus and how badly your actions will bite you in the ass later. The game begins with the pair being interrogated, each asking for their side of a story involving an elaborate con and a lot of money. That's about all I can say, as the story takes off so quickly that anything else would be a spoiler. The openness with which the two characters are written adds to the player's responsibility. Because of the openness of choice here--two noted liars spinning their own stories within a narrative path determined by the player--more than ever, this is your story to tell.The leading man......and leading lady.
Unfortunately, the supporting cast in this first episode feels less real than Fiona and Rhys. Vaughn, Rhys's sidekick, often overshoots “funny” into “annoying.” Villain August doesn't feel threatening just yet, and Fiona's sister Sasha tends to ping-pong emotionally. The one exception is the bandit lord Bossanova, who appears only briefly but adds a bright splash of Borderlands-baddie flavor to the whole affair.
You also get to tinker with some technology from the mega-corporation Hyperion. Rhys has an Echo Eye, an implant that allows him to scan objects in exploration sequences for more information. The Eye is used to gather more information about the environment and reveal more objects to click on and interact with. Rhys also gets to build and choose equipment for a Loader Bot, a self-aware piece of machinery that fights for you. You pick his equipment--grenades and a riot shield, for example--and let him loose, occasionally taking control from his perspective to shoot bandits. Other cyborg implants on Rhys allow him to hack systems, uncovering sensitive information pertinent to the plot by snooping his boss's computer screen or sifting through a stronghold's security system. It's a nice, smart touch.
Telltale's Pandora is beautifully realized. The cel-shaded art works perfectly, and several times during my playthrough I forgot I was looking at a game that wasn't from Gearbox's canon. I rode in a lightning-fast car across Pandora's surface, kicking up sand into a glowing sky and whizzing past brightly-colored billboards and slavering skags. I stood in the pit of a dingy, dusty battle arena, alone in a maze of dazzling debris as fluorescent spotlights beat down on me.
But it's not just the look, it's the sound too. Dialogue moves at a fast clip and retains the same dark humor that colors Borderlands. Sometimes jokes are a little cringe-worthy, but the wit is there, along with several well-placed gems. Fiona muttering jibberish and trying to imitate a Psycho, Rhys sweet talking another character and "blowing his mind" by moving him to tears, and a character using a voice-distortion machine to mask his high-pitched squeaky voice all made me audibly giggle-snort. Snark and smarm are ever-present in the tone, but characters don't sound like they're trying too hard to be funny. The writing just works, as Telltale nails another pillar of the Borderlands aesthetic.New "friends."
I would be remiss not to mention the superb Tales soundtrack, which feels like something pulled right out of a Borderlands score. Jared Emerson-Johnson, who scored both The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us for Telltale, has created tracks that make one think of bloody chases across Pandora's sandy surface and the violent clang of bullets and machetes on steel. During a scene in which Rhys summons a Loader Bot to help take out a group of bandits, the music swells to a pounding half-rock, half-techno frenzy that brought me back to my first firefights in the first Borderlands. Everything about the soundtrack is Borderlands--the tonal ambience inexorably drags you into battles and inspires them to press on.
Telltale and Borderlands are the peanut butter and chocolate of the current gaming landscape, creating a piece that is too rock-solid in its own convictions to be labeled simply as a mashup. It's hard to even call it professional fan fiction. Tales from the Borderlands is a Borderlands game, but Telltale has opened up Gearbox's Pandora in a way the original Borderlands games haven't and can't as shooters. Through exploration of the little people struggling in the shadows of Vault Hunters, you gain deeper opportunities to explore the world.
At its most basic level, Smash Bros. is what you’d get if you built a game on the premise of settling the classic question, “I wonder who’d win in a fight: Mario or Link?” You and your opponents choose whichever character you like from Nintendo’s staggering roster of 49 fighters and enter the fray. Damage works in a unique and slightly obtuse way. In stark contrast with most fighting games, you don’t have a limited pool of health that depletes as you take damage. Instead, your health counts upwards, and the more hits you take, the further you're sent flying when hit again. The goal of any given match is to knock your opponents off the stage and prevent them from safely returning.
This series presents a challenge unique to the Smash Bros. series: recovery. If you are simply knocked from a platform or fall off by accident, it’s usually easy enough to make it back. Every character has at least two jump moves, and almost all of them have an additional emergency technique for covering large distances. Mindlessly knocking around opponents rarely clinches you a victory. Depending upon how well your opponent can predict your movements, it’s entirely possible and often advised to trick adversaries into falling off the stage for an easy knockout. The amazing depth and variety of this system is at the heart of Smash, and its marriage of the ridiculous and the serious, and the casual and the competitive, is what sets it apart from other adversarial games.
The disparity between the portable and console versions of the game is both immediately apparent and stunning, and making the jump to the Wii U version is freeing. On the pint-sized 3DS, some characters are clearly more comfortable to control than others; given the Wii U’s option to use seven different kinds of controllers, most Smash enthusiasts can immediately and competently play as just about anyone. If you struggled to use Mega Man to his fullest potential on the 3DS, you will enjoy the ease with which you can guide him now. Everyone from Samus to Wii Fit Trainer, Villager to Mario, responds with impressive ease.
Each time you select someone with whom you’re unfamiliar, it’s like being given a brand-new toolbox. You won’t know how to use every move immediately, but they all have a purpose. Your role is to learn when and where to use each skill. As with competitive martial arts, much of the match relies on carefully watching your opponent, maintaining your own balance, and being constantly ready to punish a mistake. At every step in the process, you have some degree of control.
That focus on fine control dovetails perfectly with many of Smash Bros.' new mechanics. Ledge guarding, a staple in Smash 64, Melee, and Brawl, has been removed. This pushes a lot of the combat off the stage, requiring stronger aerial play. While most moves also knock foes farther than they used to, each character generally only has two or three solid "killing moves." That means that knockouts require substantially more skill to execute cleanly, which in turn, translates into a distinct cut between high-level and low-level players. These changes benefit everyone. Casual players are able to survive much longer than they may be used to, making sure they aren’t left out of the game entirely. Professional-level brawlers still have the skill set necessary to dominate the less experienced, but cheap kills amongst one another are less common. This tight balance helps satisfy every kind of fan, without cheapening the experience for any one group. This philosophy defines Smash Bros. for Wii U.
Everyone from Samus to Wii Fit Trainer, Villager to Mario, responds with impressive ease.
Keeping a competitive game open for the inexperienced, but giving advanced folks the opportunity to spread their wings, is a challenge that requires an enormous number of options and plenty of ways to train and refine skill sets. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is packed with dozens of challenges, training modes and minigames. These modes aren’t pointless additions. Event matches and challenges have you trying new approaches with characters you aren’t used to--often to teach you something you may have never learned otherwise. The Homerun Contest, for example, has you building up damage over ten seconds before knocking it as far as you possibly can. While it seems a bit odd, it actually helps you build a better understanding of how characters react to receiving damage, and how different techniques affect the trajectory at which you can launch enemies. There several specific distance goals, like R.O.B. having to hit the sandbag between 1600 and 1656 feet. To complete the challenge properly, you must develop a deep understanding of which attacks knock the bag too far away to continue your combo.
Event matches are less structured, but they often pit you against unusual or overwhelming odds and force you to adapt in order to progress. In one of the toughest events, you play as Falco and prevent a stream of Mr. Game and Watches from touching down even once on the stage. While you can approach the goal in a few different ways, you quickly discover that aerial attacks are one of Falco’s best choices, as they allowed you to deal with incoming foes more quickly with less downtime between attacks. There are hundreds of these types of skill tests, and they are designed to help you familiarize yourself with as many characters as you’re willing to learn. Even if you don’t end up ever using Falco, the events still give you enough experience with the game’s 49 characters that you know what your foes are capable of, and can then modify your approach accordingly.
If you have an Amiibo, then you’ve got yet another option to practice. Amiibo work like customizable AI opponents: you can change out numerous attacks, manipulate their names and appearance, and "feed" them equipment to make them stronger. For the most part, they grow by battling other people or Amiibo, and allegedly learn and adapt to better handle other people’s playstyles. I’m far from the best Smash player out there, but I’m better than most, and I struggled to deal with max-level Amiibo figures. When I switched from my typically aggressive style to a more defensive one, the Amiibo would respond either by baiting me to attack or by spamming ranged attacks to try and create an opening so that they could punish me. Amiibos aren’t unbeatable, but their attacks do a lot more damage than yours, and a good chunk of their difficulty seems to come from that. If you don’t have friends around and tire of the single-player options, an Amiibo is a great addition for all but the most talented Smash players, even if they are a little pricey.
For most players, the goal of this single-player training is to test your skills against friends, and that’s where Smash Bros. for Wii U excels. Eight-player matches are phenomenal. Turning item drops up to high and cramming eight players into a relatively small space results in the kind of unbridled lunacy I’ve come to love from Smash Bros. If you prefer the action to be a bit more tame, you can still play standard matches with four combatants, and that’s as great as it’s always been. There are quite a few new stages in which to slug it out, and more than enough to provide a good variety for just about anyone. The most interesting stages, of course, are those that change dramatically over the course of a match. They force players to keep up with the shift, and as long as you’re not looking for serious competition, it’s always hilarious to watch unwitting folks fall off the stage because they weren’t expecting the bottom of the level to suddenly drop away.
All of these stages are wonderfully rendered and keep multiplayer matches from losing their luster even after countless hours.
In that vein, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Kalos Pokemon League, and Mushroom Kingdom U are standouts. They all have new stage hazards like flaming pillars, or a pool that makes your fighter metallic, or a guy that tries to stuff you in a sack and jump off the level, resulting in an instant death. All of these stages are wonderfully rendered and keep multiplayer matches from losing their luster even after countless hours, though you can always use the Wii U gamepad to create your own levels if you seek even more diversity. There are too many restrictions on size and too few tools available, but drawing ridiculous levels with the touchpad more than makes up for the limitations. Disappointingly, you can’t conduct eight-player matches on custom stages, which is a missed opportunity for even crazier play.
Online multiplayer is an unfortunate stain on an otherwise stellar game. Lag in online Smash Bros. matches is hugely variable. Some online games chug along at a mere five frames or fewer per second or less, rendering the game completely unplayable. Others are almost as smooth as if you were playing locally. Playing with friends with solid Internet connections may help, but even so, there’s no knowing how any given match might perform. Online play is extremely hit-or-miss, with the misses being absolutely maddening.
Poor internet functionality is, thankfully, a blight on an otherwise incredible game. Between the Masterpiece Collections, which are short demos of the classic games that inspired Smash Bros., the many fighters and stages, the deep character customization for fine-tuning your fighters to suit your play style, and the extensive screenshot editing tools, there’s just so much to do. With the Wii U release, Smash Bros. has fully realized its goals. There’s something here for nearly everyone--from young to old, from novice to expert--presented almost without compromise. Super Smash Bros. Wii U invites everyone to join in its undiluted, joyous celebration of the broad community that Nintendo has built over the past forty years.
Actually, Rebirth is easy to categorize on the surface. The game is a basic roguelike, with tips of the hat to the frenzied combat in Robotron. The feel is decidedly old-school in that the top-down maps are randomly generated and you have to plow through the entire game in one sitting (so don't die, or you're going right back to the beginning). If you've ever played a classic arcade game, you know the drill. You run around constantly, shoot everything that moves, and grab power-ups. Repeat through each level until you kill the end boss or die and start all over again a little bit older and little bit wiser.Isaac’s mom isn’t just a religious nutbag, she also needs to rethink the way she cleans up after the family dog.
But that stock description sells the game short. From here, things get strange. Really strange. Instead of the usual warrior elf or whatever, you play a little boy named Isaac. Sound kind of sweet? It isn't. Isaac is on the run from his mother, who has some kind of prophecy/mental meltdown in the stick-figure opening cinematic and tries to kill her son on the orders of God. Apparently, taking away the kid's Game Boy and toys isn't enough for old Jehovah, who insists on mom doing the Abraham thing and sacrificing her son to prove her love. Just before mom bursts into Isaac's bedroom with a butcher knife, though, he escapes down a hatchway into a creepy basement, and the game is on.
So if you've spent time in a cult or have any sort of mother issues, you might want to close your eyes during the intro video. And maybe later on, too. Finishing each level earns the questionable reward of a new cinematic, which always features some horrific nightmare like other kids pooping on Isaac, his mother constantly kicking him away, him falling to his death, and someone handing him a gift box filled with (what else?) poop. The game also continually ventures back into strange Christian references. Isaac seems pulled between good and evil. At times, the game veers toward the Satanic, with various demonic options and power-ups. At other times, it shows an internal struggle as Isaac takes on various doppelganger foes representing deadly sins like sloth and envy. The game always goes out of its way to be unique and maybe make you think that it has a deeper message, even when it almost certainly doesn't.
It's creepy, blasphemous, and obsessed with poo. Despite all that, good luck walking away from The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.
McMillen really brings the weird when the game gets rolling. Isaac's health is tracked with hearts (you start with just three, and new ones are few and far between in the game), and his only weapon is his tears, which form into watery bullets. The basement and cave levels below the house are disturbingly filled with big piles of swirly cartoon poop (that comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors) and poop-related monsters like anthropomorphic piles of crap that fling smaller piles of crap at you and all sorts of related creepy crawlies likes flies, spiders, slugs, and so forth, along with demon spawn like animated dead babies (that frequently explode when killed, spraying bloody viscera all over the place). Power-ups are equally loony-tunes. There are hundreds of these goodies in the game, some passive, some active, and all are surreal, blasphemous, or an inventively sick combination of the two. Isaac can pick up the Stigmata power-up and start shooting more powerful bloody tears. The Black Bean causes Isaac to spew toxic fart clouds whenever he is attacked. A Placenta boosts health. The severed heads of various pets provide all kinds of buffs, as do Tarot cards, evil books, and so forth. Cancer gives you -- ah, I don't even know or want to know. It was enough for me to see Isaac shout, "Yay, cancer!" when he picked it up.
At first, it's hard to know what to think of all this. I alternated between nervous laughter and being sort of grossed out. Then the game took over, and suddenly the idea of whistling poop boss monsters didn't seem all that crazy. Beyond all the insanity, Rebirth is a fantastic arcade shooter. Combat speed, a variety of enemies, and alternating types of rooms keep you off-kilter just enough so that the game never gets repetitive. One moment, you're taking on blackened babies in a huge cavern, and the next, you're dealing with poisonous slugs in a cramped room loaded with obstacles.
Levels also hit you with optional challenges, like rooms that can only be opened with keys, dangerous rooms with toothy doors, shops where you can buy items, special rooms like an arcade where you can play games to try to earn items, and much more. You also have to make tough calls at times. Hmm, I'm down to just one heart. Do I take a chance on battling the end boss in that room up ahead right now? Or do I go back and explore some other chambers I skipped earlier and hope I can avoid enough damage to pick up some hearts? With the threat of permadeath always looming, you have to spend at least a little time thinking about the best ways to move forward.And just when you think that you’ve discovered all that poo has to offer, along comes a whistling turd to take things even deeper into the toilet.
The visuals are also disturbing in that they blend an innocent, pixelated design more fitting to a cheerful eight-bit console game than something this twisted. The look of the game makes you expect something kid-friendly and G-rated, to the point where I couldn't quite believe that these graphics were being used to show bloody trails behind a little kid and the exploded remains of evil babies. The audio is almost as catchy as the gameplay, with the most distinctive part of it being the 80s hair metal score that sounds like it was concocted during a collaboration between Cinderella and Iron Maiden.
Come for the brilliantly designed shooter action; stay for the poo. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth may first catch your attention with its insane setting, surreal monsters, and irreverent references to Christianity, but the speedy, varied gameplay and seemingly neverending new features (which include multiple endings and new bosses after you take out mom the first time, so the replay value is nearly infinite) are what keep you coming back for more. And more. And more.